Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles came within touching distance of sentencing table toppers London Lions to their first defeat of the season.
But the brave visitors finally ran out of steam and personnel as a spellbinding advert for the British Basketball League was decided in overtime.
A manic Monday of top-flight hoops saw Newcastle lead by 14 points with eight minutes of regulation time remaining.
And it looked for all the world like London were about to kiss goodbye to their proud 100 per cent record in front of the increasingly anxious Copperbox faithful.
But nobody had bothered to tell generational US college standout and G Leaguer Matt Morgan that the night was supposed to belong to Marc Steutel’s battling men in black.
The ruthless shooter had already drained five three-pointers before the break.
And with his team teetering on the brink of a double-digit loss, the Ivy League’s second all-time leading scorer added another four hammer blow triples down the stretch.
That accuracy from beyond the arc carried the hosts into overtime and even with Morgan benched, after the prolific guard picked up a fifth foul, the table toppers had enough in the tank to take the points.
Newcastle didn’t deserve a fourth successive league defeat after taking the game to shellshocked London from tip to buzzer.
And, if anything, a cruel loss could prove to be the catalyst for success for an evolving roster that responded to mounting pressure with a show of strength, resilience and a great deal of guile.
Steutel will be bitterly disappointed that his players surrendered another commanding lead late in the game — a consistent theme this season.
But any frustration will surely be tempered by a 45-minute display that screamed pride, passion and a determination to hang tough.
Even at the death guards Jordan Johnson, Ricky McGill and Larry Austin Jr continued to put their bodies on the line as they pounded the paint time and time again.
But when McGill became the third Eagles player to foul out — following a fired-up Tajh Green and MVP Johnson — Newcastle were five points adrift with time running out.
And on a night when Will Neighbour failed to make the trip south to face his former club, the visitors were finally sunk by London’s superior strength in depth.
The Eagles flew into a 25-23 first quarter lead and withstood Morgan’s first three-point salvo to tie the game in the closing seconds of the first half.
A thrilling third quarter saw Steutel’s men seize control — eight straight points from Devin Whitfield opening up a barely believable 10-point lead.
The visitors had extended that advantage to 14 with eight minutes to play but that man Morgan hit a further four triples in the last six-and-a-half minutes of regulation time to move to 30 points personal.
Gabe Olaseni’s two from two from the bonus stripe took a humdinger of a clash into overtime and despite regular trips to the free throw line, Newcastle trailed throughout the additional period.
Few teams will come away from the Copperbox empty handed having hit 10 from 19 threes, converted 82 per cent of their 34 free throws and poured in 104 points against the Lions.
But a sensational showing from Steutel’s beaten but unbowed road dogs will strike fear into the franchise’s playoff rivals and should provide the impetus for a long overdue change in fortunes.
Tickets for this Friday’s night’s home rematch against the Leicester Riders are on sale now from the box office.